6 'Signs of the Time' That Are Older Than Your Grandparents

#3. Romans and Furries

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

No fetish is more closely tied to the Internet than furrydom. It's hard to imagine people in Don Draper's era dressing up like timber wolves and boning in the supply closet. I've done the research, purged my search history, and come up with 1983-84 as the accepted origin of the modern furry fetish. The people who study such things name comic conventions and role-playing games as the nebula that birthed the Internet's most terrible lust (not involving fecal matter or the Japanese).

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty
"Your halfhearted stabs at perversion amuse me, gaijin."

But Really ...

The Internet isn't responsible for people dressing like animals and fucking. It's just made sharing that fetish easier for everyone who isn't Emperor Nero. According to Suetonius, Nero had a habit of covering himself with "the skin of some wild animal" and bursting out of a cage to attack the genitals of any men and women standing nearby.

The neckbeard: sign of the furry now and in days of yore.

If that were all, I'd write Nero off as a lone kook and stick this story on my upcoming list, "Five Powerful Men Who Dressed Like Wolves and Bit People's Crotches" (featuring Dick Cheney and Lorne Michaels). But a century or so later, during the life of Cassius Dio, we find another reference to the noble art of anthropomorphic boning: " ... an old man who had been consul was publicly sporting with a prostitute who imitated a leopard."

These 17 cryptic words are the only look we have inside furrydom's dank, uncomfortably moist foundation. You could argue that that rich old pervert was the only dude in Rome who wanted to bang someone dressed as a giant cat. But think about it: When have politicians ever been sexual pioneers? If Republicans are any guide, senators only learn about kinky sex by banning people from having it and then trying it later in the bathroom of a truck stop.

Art Renewal
Is that ... a young Mitch McConnell?

So, furries, hold your head up high and take pride in your Roman roots. Then clean the semen out of that fur suit. It's starting to fester.

#2. Medieval Gay Marriage

OK, so this one definitely can't exist outside the modern era. Thirty years ago, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. A century ago, people got shot over it. Gay marriage is only just starting to gain traction now thanks to the tireless efforts of the cast of Modern Family.

Heroes, every one of them.

Since almost all opposition to gay marriage is based in religion, it's natural to assume that a stronger church has always meant more homophobia. But gay marriage actually got its start thanks to the Catholic Church. The current superpope's stance on homosexuality is less of a break from tradition and more of a blast from the past.

Franco Origlia / Getty
His stance on giant hats, however, is classic Catholicism.

But Really ...

One history professor at Yale has found at least 60 examples, dating from the eighth to 16th centuries, of the church bonding men together in a somewhat hairier version of holy matrimony. This "spiritual brotherhood" was meant to unite two men "not by nature but by faith and a holy spirit." For almost a thousand years, being a good Catholic meant accepting that sometimes two dudes are gonna bone.

In other words, the same Catholics who didn't see anything wrong with the Crusades were more enlightened about gay people than (at least) two out of three modern popes. It's a fact that's only shocking because we assume that our ancestors lived in a sepia-tinted Disney version of the past. Real medieval families were just as complicated and varied as the fake modern ones on TV. The French even had something called a "brotherment," which allowed two dudes to share property AND bodily fluids with the law's full support.

France's debate over gay marriage has not aged with dignity.

#1. The First Tree Huggers


Tree-hugging environmentalists are a product of the sort of modern world where trees as a whole have something to fear. We could cut every last tree down by this time tomorrow and still have plenty of saws left to start on shrubbery. The environmental movement only exists now because our ancestors did their damnedest to pave over the natural world.

But Really ...

In 1485, the Bishnoi sect was founded around 29 principles that all boil down to "don't murder anything." Guru Maharaj Jambaji forbade his followers from chopping down green trees, killing animals, and generally doing anything that might make Captain Planet cry. There's a reason the Indian kid's power was "heart."

Ramesh Mangilal Ji Chimnoba Seervi Endla, Pali, Rajasthan
And it's the same reason Rajasthan's streets are 60 percent poop and 40 percent cow.

The Bishnoi kept on trucking for 300 years, cultivating acacia trees in peace and generally Al Goring their way through history. All that tireless environmentalism netted them one big-ass forest of healthy trees near the village of Kherjarji. Said forest lasted right up until a nearby king realized that he could use a few hundred trees to build his badass new house. Soldiers were dispatched to lumberjack those trees into a palace, and that's when things got ugly.

Screaming, "A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree," hundreds of Bishnoi villagers charged to the defense of their bark-skinned brothers. They quite literally hugged their trees to stop the king's soldiers from cutting them down. This backfired, because men planning to fell a whole forest don't mind adding a few necks to their inbox. The soldiers beheaded the Bishnoi, one by one, until over 360 of them were dead.

Then they cut down the trees.

And Bishnoi Santa shed a single watery tear.

Oddly enough, that mass decapitation might have been the most successful protest in environmental history. The king felt so bad about murdering the Bishnoi that he declared their whole home a protected area, which it remains to this day. So there you go, activists: Only mass decapitation can protect our woodlands.

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